EE set to launch 'cheapest' UK LTE smartphone in April

UK operator EE turned up the heat on its rivals by detailing plans to launch the UK's first sub-£100 (€119/$165) LTE smartphone, and confirming it has taken Vodafone's place as the mobile virtual network operator for incumbent BT.

EE, which was created when Orange and T-Mobile merged their respective UK operations, plans to launch the Kestrel smartphone in late April, priced at £99.99. The device will be EE's first own-brand smartphone, and will also be the cheapest LTE handset in the UK market, a company statement reveals. The manufacturer of the device is Huawei, the Guardian reported.

The LTE CAT 4-compatible Kestrel runs Android and features a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm quad-core processor, 4.5-inch display, and HD voice. EE stated the device "will be the first in a range of EE own-branded 4G devices."

Chief marketing officer Pippa Dunn said the Kestrel is the lowest priced LTE smartphone in the UK market, and will make LTE a viable option for more people.

Analysts contacted by FierceWireless:Europe confirmed the smartphone is likely the cheapest in the UK, but noted there are no details of the level of subsidy EE is putting into the device and that it is perhaps safer to say the company has the lowest overall LTE package price in the country.

The operator also dropped the price of its entry-level LTE tariff to £13.99 per month on a two-year contract, continuing a strategy of lowering prices it began in October 2013 after rivals Vodafone and O2 UK launched their commercial LTE networks. Users signing up to the contract get inclusive voice and text allowances, 500 MB of data per month, and a free LTE handset.

Meanwhile a recent report by Root Metrics ranked EE's network as the best in the UK. However, the report has since sparked a spat between the operator and rival Vodafone, which was rated in last place and is disputing the impartiality of the research.

Vodafone also this week lost out to EE over a deal to supply MVNO services to UK incumbent BT.

EE and BT signed a multi-year agreement covering access to 2G, 3G, and LTE networks, which BT will offer to large corporate customers, public sector, and small to medium sized businesses. The operator said its wireless consumer service will continue to be built around its network of Wi-Fi hotspots.

BT also won LTE spectrum in the UK's auction in February 2013, but to date has not revealed details of how it plans to use the 2.6 GHz spectrum.

For more:
- see EE's LTE announcements
- see BT's MVNO release
-see this Guardian article

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